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Colour Test Card Generator

Introduction and specification


The Colour Test Card Generator is a self-contained hardware unit which stores a test card image (or any still picture) plus four fastext teletext pages, and outputs them as a 625-line baseband PAL composite video signal. It is supplied pre-programmed with a colour test card image and informative text pages, but a software program is included (compatible with Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 or 8.1) which allows the user to reprogram the generator with any image and text pages of his choosing. Alternatively the generator may be programmed to output a 180, 405, 441, 525 or 819-line video signal.

Optional vertical interval test signals (pulse and bar) and line 23 wide-screen signalling are incorporated; these may be configured using the supplied software. The PAL colour encoding is mathematical (meaning the colour subcarrier frequency has exactly the correct relationship to the synchronising pulses) thus minimising subcarrier visibility and guaranteeing compatibility with all 625-line PAL equipment.

The generator is supplied with a 'plug top' 230 Volt AC mains adaptor, or may alternatively be powered from a 9-12 Volt regulated DC supply. To program the generator a 9-way D-type serial extension cable (male-female) is required; this is not supplied. Suitable cables are Maplin order code VD73Q or CPC order codes CSLEAD76 (2m length) and CS9115 (5m length).


Dimensions (excluding connectors) Approximately 130x65x25 mm
WeightApproximately 150 grams
Power requirements+9 Volts to +12 Volts at approximately 150 mA
Power connectorConcentric, 2.1 mm (centre +ve)
Video outputBaseband composite PAL, NTSC or monochrome.
Video level1 Volt pk-pk ±10% into 75 ohms
Output impedance75 ohms ±10%
Line standard180, 405, 441, 625 or 819 lines, 25 Hz; 525 lines 29.97 Hz.
Video connector75 ohm BNC socket
Storage format12 MHz sampling, 8-bits linear coding
Storage capacityOne still frame (8-field PAL sequence)
Programming connector9-pole D-type socket (female)

Video standards

 180 lines405 lines441 lines525 lines625 lines819 lines
Field frequency25 Hz50 Hz50 Hz59.94.. Hz50 Hz50 Hz
Frame frequency25 Hz25 Hz25 Hz29.97.. Hz25 Hz25 Hz
Active picture169 lines375 lines383 lines485 lines575 lines737 lines
Field blanking11 lines15 lines29 lines20 lines25 lines41 lines
No. of broad pulses1 per frame8 per field8 per field6 per field5 per field1 per field
Broad pulse width200 µs41.2 µs36.3 µs27.1 µs27.3 µs20.0 µs
Line frequency4500 Hz10125 Hz11025 Hz15734.3 Hz15625 Hz20475 Hz
Front porch2.2 µs1.7 µs1.0 µs1.5 µs1.6 µs0.5 µs
Line sync20.0 µs9.0 µs9.0 µs4.7 µs4.7 µs2.5 µs
Back porch2.2 µs7.8 µs6.3 µs4.5 µs5.7 µs5.0 µs
Active line time197.8 µs80.3 µs74.3 µs52.9 µs52.0 µs40.8 µs
Video/syncs ratio75/2570/3070/30100/4070/3075/25
Colour subcarrier (MHz) 2.65781250 (NTSC) 3.57954545 (NTSC), 3.57561189 (PAL-M) or 4.43361638 (NTSC 4.43)4.43361875 (PAL) or 3.58205625 (PAL-N) 
Note that for operation at 525 lines an internal link must be changed. See the programming section for details.

Programming software

The Colour Test Card Generator is supplied with Windows™ software which allows it to be programmed by the user. Both the picture and the teletext pages can be programmed, and various other features (e.g. vertical interval test signals) can be enabled or disabled.

The programming software is supplied with the generator on floppy disk (or on CD-ROM to special order), or can be downloaded from the R.T.Russell web site.

Once installed, the programming software can be run in a number of ways:

Minimum system requirements

In order to be able to install and run the programming software your system must meet these minimum requirements:

Sample images

A number of sample images are supplied with the Colour Test Card Generator programming software. They can be found in the SAMPLES folder (this is the default file folder following installation):

Colour Bars 100 Colour Bars 100 100% full-frame colour bars.
EBU bars* EBU bars Plain colour bars as specified by the European Broadcasting Union.
Frequency sweep Frequency sweep A luminance (0-6 MHz) and chrominance (0-3 MHz) frequency sweep, with markers.
Grille* Grille A regular grid of lines for checking linearity and convergence.
Old Test Card Old Test Card A facsimile of the electronic test card published by the BATC in the ATV Handbook of 1981.
Pluge Pluge The pattern produced by the BBC's Picture Line Up Generator Equipment.
Pulse and Bar Pulse and Bar A full-frame 2T luminance pulse, composite chrominance pulses and luminance bar.
RTR Test Card RTR Test Card The default test card which is programmed into the generator as supplied.
Safe Area 4x3* Safe Area 4x3 An image showing the safe area to which important information like captions should be restricted.
Sawtooth* Sawtooth A luminance ramp, for testing linearity and quantising distortion.
SMPTE bars* SMPTE bars A pattern specified by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.
Tartan bars* Tartan bars A pattern of coloured blocks for checking saturation.
Test Card C Test Card C The famous monochrome test card, digitally remastered.
Test Card D Test Card D Another famous black and white Test Card.
Test Card F* Test Card F Possibly the best-known test card of them all. ©BBC, Ofcom & Intellect 1967.
Wols 4x3 Test Card* Wols 4x3 Test Card A 4x3 colour test card designed by Peter Vince.
Wols 16x9 Test Card* Wols 16x9 Test Card A 16x9 colour test card designed by Peter Vince.

The images marked * are not actually supplied with the Test Card Generator, but are automatically downloaded from the internet as required. If you use a 'dial-up' internet service you will be prompted to make a connection.


The Colour Test Card Generator programming software is thought to be free from serious bugs, and it is highly unlikely that it could do any harm to other software or systems. However there is NO warranty that it will not and its use is at your own risk.

The Colour Test Card Generator, its programming software and the incorporated test card image are the Copyright © 2003-2005 of R. T. Russell.

Test Card F is the Copyright © 1967 of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Office of Communications (formerly the Independent Television Commission) and Intellect (formerly the British Radio Equipment Manufacturers' Association). It may not be reproduced for any other purpose.



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© Richard Russell 2005